If you have been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), you may be looking for tips on how to stop AFib episodes naturally. Luckily, with a few dietary changes and a well-planned AFib diet plan, you may be able to reduce the number of AFib attacks you experience.
Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) is a heart rhythm disorder. In AFib, the atria (upper chambers of the heart) beat out of rhythm with the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart). This results in an irregular heartbeat called ‘fibrillation’. In other words, the heart may be too fast, too slow, or skip beats altogether. As a result, the heart can’t pump blood as well as it should.
AFib affects up to 6 million adults in the United States and approximately 34 million people worldwide. It is the most prevalent heart arrhythmia. Many people with AFib are at a higher risk of death and disability due to stroke and heart failure.
Afib symptoms may include:
There are many risk factors associated with AFib, including:
Medications used for AFib are often ineffective for treatment or prevention. This doesn’t mean you should stop taking your medications. It just means that lifestyle changes, like following an AFib diet along with other lifestyle changes, are important ways to prevent AFib attacks.
A low-carbohydrate diet.
Low-carbohydrate diets (i.e., keto, LCHF, paleo) have become very popular because they can produce short-term weight loss. However, restricting carbohydrates long-term is not recommended, especially in regards to its impact on heart disease.
One large-scale study on low-carb diets and AFib included more than 13,000 participants and had a follow-up period of 22.4 years. The authors found that low-carb diets increased the risk of AFib, regardless of the kind of fat or protein participants ate in place of carbohydrates.
This may be because low-carb diets are generally lower in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, which also reduce vitamins and anti-inflammatory nutrients in the diet. There is a well-known association between inflammation and AFib, so not eating as many inflammation-fighting foods may increase the risk of Afib attacks.
Plus, a low-carb diet, also called a keto Afib diet, contains high amounts of fat and protein. This may trigger harmful stress in your cells, which is another risk factor for AFib.
There have been many studies showing a strong relationship between high amounts of alcohol consumption and incidence of Afib. The Framingham Heart Study found that drinking at least 3 alcoholic beverages per day significantly increased AFib risk among men. In addition to this, researchers found that with each additional standard drink, risk of AFib increased by 8%. Avoiding or limiting alcohol may be a simple step towards AFib prevention.
Excess sodium (salt).
Research has found that eating a lot of sodium doesn’t just raise your blood pressure and increases your risk of having a heart attack and stroke. It also significantly increases the risk of AFib, regardless of age, weight, or blood pressure. To prevent Afib attacks, limit your intake to 1500mg per day and be mindful of hidden sources of sodium.
So, what are some of the best foods to eat for AFib?
Magnesium is an electrolyte in your body. It helps maintain a steady heartbeat, normal blood pressure, and healthy muscle function. In the Framingham Heart Study, people who ate the least amount of magnesium were 50% more likely to develop Afib than people who moderate to high amounts.
It is difficult to obtain adequate levels of Magnesium if you don’t plan it thoroughly into your Afib diet. Here are a couple of examples of foods with rich sources of Magnesium.
Magnesium also influences the movements of potassium, sodium, and calcium across cell membranes. Studies show that potassium in muscles will not normalize unless magnesium is sufficient. Low levels of potassium have been shown to increase the risk of AFib as well.
Like magnesium, potassium is also an electrolyte and plays a key role in helping prevent AFib. More than 98% of Americans don’t get enough potassium in their diet. This is likely because the standard American diet is often lacking in fruits and vegetables, and most natural potassium comes from these plant-based foods. In a study of more than 4,000 participants, low levels of potassium were associated with a significantly higher risk of AFib.
Omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids (found mostly in fish) have long been associated with improved heart health. Omega-3s help prevent heart disease by improving blood pressure and fats in the blood, as well as decreasing the risk of sudden death.
When it comes to omega-3 and AFib, studies initially reported mixed results. However, recent studies suggest that omega-3s could be good for people with AFib, as they reduce inflammation and abnormal heart rhythms. These effects not only protect against AFib but improve symptoms overall.
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).
The PREDIMED trial found that AFib risk was lowered by 38% when participants added extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to their diet. . EVOO could be found to decrease the inflammatory response found in those with AFib. Secondly, the antioxidants in EVOO help fight oxidative stress that may promote the development of AFib.
Weight loss and Afib.
A recent study reported a six-fold greater likelihood of survival in AFib patients who lost more than 10% of their A recent study reported that Afib patients were six times more likely to survive if they lost more than 10% of their body weight, compared to patients who lost less weight. The same study also showed that sustaining this weight loss resulted in significant maintenance of regular heart rhythm.
A healthy diet is not only key to preventing and improving Afib risk, it’s necessary for a long and healthy life. I understand that changing your diet can be extremely challenging, and the correct instruction and counseling are critical for long-term success.
I am a Preventive Cardiology dietitian who specializes in heart diseases such as Afib. I have helped thousands of individuals with Afib eliminate their Afib attacks and feel better than ever before. I would love to help you by creating a personalized plan to create your best diet for AFib and help you prevent Afib attacks naturally through science-based recommendations.
Book a 15 minute complimentary call to see if we would be a good fit!
** This article is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for individualized medical advice or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health.
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